Vo-tech students upgrading Mechanicsburg Christmas lights [The Sentinel, Carlisle, Pa.]
(Sentinel, The (Carlisle, PA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Oct. 14--SILVER SPRING TWP. -- Electronics Engineering Technology students at Cumberland Perry Area Vocational Technical School are hard at work upgrading the Christmas tree lights that will be hung in downtown Mechanicsburg.
Larry Harman, electronic technology teacher at the school, said students are retrofitting 30 Christmas tree light fixtures for the borough. He said the project was discussed last year, and work began last Monday. The Mechanicsburg Borough Council agreed to allow the vo-tech to repair and upgrade the lights at a borough council meeting in May.
"We are taking the incandescent lights that are not energy efficient, and we are replacing them with energy-efficient LED lights and rewiring all of them (the trees)," Harman said.
Harman said about 10 to 12 students will work on the trees. He said the project will encompass a number of things that are in the class' curriculum, including wiring, placement of wires and splicing. Harman said a sample was submitted to the borough council in September. It was approved, and he said the lights should be finished by the end of the week.
Seniors Hyder Huston and Cameron Bender are two students who have worked on the lights. Huston said the project has enabled him to learn how to splice wires, a skill he had not learned before.
"It's pretty simple, it's just really time consuming," he said.
If it's broke, fix it
Matthew Seagrist, president of the Mechanicsburg Borough Council, said the borough's Christmas lights were taken down previously due to their poor condition.
"Several of Mechanicsburg's fixture frames were broken, and more light bulbs were broken or burned out than were properly functioning, and all of the fixtures were filthy from years of motor vehicle exhaust," he said.
Seagrist said the borough borrowed light fixtures from Lemoyne last year since they were cutting back on their electricity costs. The original estimate to rewire the outer edge of the fixtures with LED lights was $1,247.99. Seagrist said the electronics engineering technology department offered to install lights in the interior of the fixture, which brought the cost up to $2,100. Seagrist accepted the offer because he said the borough is set to save a lot of money in electricity costs when the lights are displayed.
Seagrist said he received calculations from Harman on the usage of LED lights versus the standard bulbs that were used in the light fixtures. The older bulbs used 129 watts of electricity, while the LED will use only 20 watts. Harman said it would cost $37 in electricity per tree with standard bulbs -- with LED lights, he said it will cost only $5 per tree. He said those calculations are based on 8.78 cents per kilowatt hour, and estimated the borough will save about $1,000 a year. Seagrist said the new trees will result in an 83 percent reduction of energy use.
"Given the fact that the borough has historically budgeted $2,500 for electricity to light the Christmas decorations, and the estimated savings to our taxpayers in dramatically reduced consumption by the LED lights, this rehabilitation should still pay for itself in the first year," he said. Had the borough opted to purchase brand new lights, Seagrist said it would have cost $16,500. "As such, based on the former budgeting of $2,500 to illuminate the old lights, borough taxpayers should enjoy savings of approximately $2,080 per year, after this year's rehabilitation."
Not only will the borough pay a lower electricity bill, but Harman said the borough should also pay less for maintenance. Whereas traditional light bulbs last for up to four years, he said LED lights can last for up to 10 years.
A community project
Huston and Bender each said it was great knowing their work was benefitting the borough. Bender said he plans to drive through Mechanicsburg to see some of his work in action. That sort of enthusiasm is something Harman said he has seen students exhibit during the project.
Seagrist called the vo-tech "one of Central Pennsylvania's best kept secrets" not only as an educational opportunity, but also as a way to provide services to the community.
Harman also saw the benefits of the project for all involved.
"I think it's a win-win for everyone because the students get real-world experience," he said. "They're getting to help out a group of people, or in this case, Mechanicsburg residents."
Seagrist went a step further and referred to the project as a "win-win-win-win" scenario. He said students will learn their trade, taxpayers will be able to enjoy the lights, the 30-year-old tradition will continue on and the use of LED lights is not only a green initiative, but will also improve the appearance of the lights.
(c)2013 The Sentinel (Carlisle, Pa.)
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